Surface water sources (like water from streams, rivers and lakes) is full of leaves, decaying vegetation, fish and animals, algae, and other forms of plant life. When this matter decays in water it becomes dissolved organic matter. When chlorine is added to water that contains dissolved organic matter, the formation of “disinfection by-products” (DBP’s) occurs. These include “trihalogenated methanes” or trihalomethanes (THM's) and “haloacetic acids” (HAA’s.)
Contrary to what water suppliers have attempted to say about the subject for many years, it is now apparent that these compounds are potent carcinogens. This realization forced the EPA to drastically lower the amount of these dangerous disinfection by-products it will permit in domestic drinking water supplies with a new regulation called the Stage 1 Disinfection Byproduct Rule
This new regulation requires water producers to limit the running average to THMs to 80 part per billion in the distribution system. The rule was phased in gradually but all water utilities were required to comply with the new regulations by January 2004.
Compliance is a difficult issue. The best way to resolve the problem is also very expensive. It involves installing huge filtration systems that rely on expensive forms of carbon that must be backwashed and replenished regularly. To install this equipment would require an investment in infrastructure that most water utility companies are unwilling or unable to make.
That is why most water suppliers are electing to comply with these new Stage 1 requirements by converting their disinfection method from chlorination to chloramination. While these chemical compounds sound similar, they are very different.
Chlorination is usually accomplished by adding chlorine gas or a liquid chlorine compound similar to common household bleach into the water. While these are effective disinfection agents, the problem is that these forms of chlorine dissipate rapidly from the water supply through the mechanism of evaporation. If you put bleach in a bucket of water and leave it out, 98% of the chlorine will have escaped into the air within a few hours.
Return to top
What Are Chloramines?
Chloramine is the result of mixing chlorine with ammonia. Have you ever read the label on a bottle of bleach or ammonia? The directions carry a prominent warning not to mix these two chemicals together. The result is a dangerous chemical called monochloramine that is a form of nerve gas, and besides being toxic, is very irritating to the skin and mucous membranes.
So if monochloramine is so dangerous, why is it added to drinking water? One reason is that it is added in very small amounts. While it is not as effective as chlorination, the chemical DOES NOT dissipate from water. Because there is less chlorine present, chloramines have a lower potential to form carcinogenic by-products – or so we were told.
Unfortunately, it appears that chloramines have their own sets of potential health problems including gastrointestinal irritation, and exacerbation of skin problems, not to mention the possibility of creating other disinfection by-products known as Nitrosodimethylamines (NDMA’s)
that may be more carcinogenic than their predecessors.
In addition, a study conducted by the University of Illinois
demonstrates that a by-product of the chloramination of drinking water known as iodoacids (EYE-O-doe-acids) may be the most toxic ever found in drinking water. The concern is not only the genetic damage they can cause in mammals (including humans) that drink chloraminated water, but also the fact that these dangerous chemicals are being released back into the environment where fish, wildlife, and the food chain may be adversely affected.
Like chlorine, chloramines are biocides designed to kill pathogenic organisms. At normal pH values, the predominant form of chloramine that is created is called monochloramine. Like Cl2 chloramines are oxidants and kill bacteria by penetrating their cell walls and disrupting their metabolism. Chloramines are, however, much slower to “react”. Unlike chlorine they do not evaporate from water. Neither are they removed by typical water treatment techniques. As with chlorine, municipalities aim for I to 2 mg/l (ppm) chloramine residual in the potable water supply.
Several disinfectants ranked by their “biocidal efficiency” and “stability” are noted below. (Biocidal efficiency is considered as the effectiveness of the disinfectant against a number of viruses and bacteria in the pH range of 6 to 9. Stability reflects a lack of reactivity with constituents other than microorganisms and is a measure of persistence in the treated system)
Return to top
Efficiency of Biocidal Agents
BIOCIDAL EFFICIENCY (BEST TO WORST)
ozone > chlorine dioxide > free chlorine > chloramines
STABILITY (BEST TO WORST)
chloramines > chlorine dioxide > free chlorine > ozone
Health Issues Involving Chloramine
By far the biggest health concern is that no long term, and very few short-term studies have been performed that can clarify the effect of chloramines on human metabolism.
What we know for sure about chloramines demonstrates that they are both reactive and persistent — not only in water, but also in human tissue. One study demonstrated that after 5 days, over 95% of a single dose of chloramine administered to laboratory rats was still concentrated in tissues including plasma, blood, skin, packed cells, kidney, nerves, testes, thymus gland, spleen, liver, muscle tissue, bone marrow, etc.
Notwithstanding this information, utility companies around the country routinely misinform their customers, telling them that chloramines are effectively neutralized by stomach acids before they can reach the blood.
It is also known that chloramines cause DNA damage and are potential carcinogens. They are extremely dangerous to all forms of fresh and salt-water fish because they are absorbed directly from the gills and transported directly into the blood causing death in a short period of time.
In one study, doses at the levels used by municipalities to treat water resulted in a significant reduction of water consumption by rats vs. controls, along with significant decreases in glood glutathione levels in rats. Other studies demonstrated changes in the organ weights of rat spleens, livers, and kidneys. Other studies show that chloramine ingestion may be toxic to the organs that comprise the immune system.
The EPA admits that in their review of studies available, not much has been done to research the effect of oxidant stress on blood or tissues, nor is the long term effect of chloromine ingestion on plasma cholesterol metabolism.
Clinical reports of the effects of chloramines on humans show that some people suffer allergic contact dermatitis when exposed. Chloramines are also irritants to mucous membranes including those that line the nose, throat, and gastrointestinal system.
Remarkably, based on very few poorly designed studies, and virtually no long term studies, public utility companies routinely declare that the EPA has determined that the addition of chloramine to drinking water is absolutely safe!
Return to top
How Can I Remove Chloramines From My Water
While the effect on public health by not disinfecting drinking water supplies would be far worse than the alternative, advising the public that either chlorination or chloramination are completely non-toxic methods is ill-advised. We now know that chlorination has contributed greatly to heart disease, cancer, and other serious health issues in our human population. There is no reason to believe that chloramination will prove to be less troublesome. In fact, just the opposite is likely.
Consumers interested in home appliances capable of solving this problem will be disappointed to learn that most popular treatment technologies are completely unable to handle chloramines without modification. These include most cartridge-based systems using ceramic or carbon media, reverse-osmosis systems, and distillers.
The only media that is proven effective at removing chloramine is a specially designed carbon known as Catalytic Activated Carbon. Whole house systems require substantial amounts of this media. A flow of 2 gallons per minute requires a cubic foot of media so the average home will require 3 to 4 cubic feet in a backwashing filter to reduce the average amount of chloramine from 2 ppm to less than 0.1 ppm. In a drinking water appliance like most countertop or undercounter units, an entire 10" cartridge filled with the media is required on flow rates of 1/4 gpm.
For systems designed to accept standard size pre and post-filters, a LIVINGWATERS™ Catalytic Activated Carbon (LW10CAC) replacement filter cartridge can replace typical carbon filters in RO and distillation systems.
Those interested in purchasing new systems are well-advised to consider purchasing either a LIVINGWATERS™ premium manifold RO system with chloramine removal technology, or a 6-stage LIVINGWATERS™ cartridge-based Alkalizer. The latter will remove not only chloramine, but also chlorine, their disinfection by-products, fluoride, heavy metals, organic compounds that cause tastes and odors, as well as render product water completely sterile, all without the need for power, chemicals, or high water pressure.
Return to top
Our Site Uses Technology That Is Not Affected By The Heartbeat Bug
You may order from this site with confidence that your private information is secure.